Daimler, a major player in truck manufacturing, has been pioneering platooning for the last few years. As technology has progressed and made possible -and affordable- the linking of several trucks into a convoy a few manufacturers started exploring the benefits. There should be two main benefits: decreasing drag, hence the cost of fuel and decreasing the number of drivers, something that in places like the US experiencing truck drivers shortage should be very appealing.
Trials, so far, have been carried out in Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Georgia (this latter by Waymo) in the US and in Nordic Countries (Volvo), mostly Sweden, in Europe where traffic conditions and long stretches of roads are the norm.
In spite of the promises, Daimler published a press release announcing they are abandoning platooning to focus on highly automated trucks with plans to invest half a billion € over the next few years. The results from platooning has shown fewer benefits on the side of fuel consumption, even in the best condition. This is due to the increased aerodynamics of newer trucks and to the fact that it is practically impossible to keep the convoy in a platoon for the whole length of travel. The acceleration required to re-form the platoon is further decreasing the save of fuel. The same need for breaking and recomposing the platoon makes impossible, today, to use a single driver for the whole platoon, each truck in the convoy needs to have its own driver.
The business motivation is not there, the potential savings do not balance the extra cost needed to equip trucks to support platooning.
Hence, the decision of Daimler to focus research resources on creating highly automated trucks (level 4). Truck automation is different from car automation. It needs to take into consideration the bigger size and mass of the truck, and corresponding different responses to acceleration and braking. Daimler intends to use radar, LIDAR and image cameras processing all data they provide to create a continuous monitoring of the truck in the ambient. This requires high capacity processing on board. Additionally, the automation system will be duplicated to have a redundant back up in case of malfunctioning.